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Transparent transistors could mean cheaper, smaller electronics


TransistorA new class of materials in development at Oregon State University and HP will soon be used to create transparent transistors which, besides dripping with the sci-fi factor, are cheaper to produce than their silicon counterparts. The new material is created by mixing zinc oxide (the same stuff that provides UV protection in sunscreen) and tin oxide (found in food cans), and was originally intended as a cheap replacement for the expensive transparent transistors currently used in solar cells. However, the consumer electronics industry already has other ideas in mind for the technology and is driving demand to bring these materials to market.

Potential consumer applications include electronic glass displays (think information displayed in shop windows or car windshields), improved LCD technologies, foldable electronics, better solar cell technologies, and a broad range of entirely new consumer products. Also look for devices incorporating glass to become smaller, due to the transparent transistors' ability to embed mechanical support systems into areas of glass that currently go unused. If these transistors eventually replace the traditional silicon transistors in your computer monitor, TV, or CPU, it would accompany a drop in consumer electronics prices. These transistors can be produced so cheaply they may even find their way into one-time-use disposable electronics, like the constantly updating foldable plastic newspaper as envisioned in everybody's favorite movie (yeah), Back to the Future II. We'll leave the 80's fashion behind, thanks, but we'll gladly take this vision of a transparent sci-fi world on the horizon.

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